SHIRLEY -- Each of the nine houses the Shirley Historical Society has lined up for its upcoming Historical House Tour on Sunday, April 29 from 1 to 4 p.m. has something special to offer.
According to tour organizer Susan Baxter, there's something extra at the "Tupper House," where visitors can browse and buy Tupperware, circa 2017, from the local Tupperware Lady.
Tour tickets are $25 in advance, $30 on tour day and are available at the Historical Society and Hazen Library. "We're hoping this will be a major fundraiser for the museum," Baxter said.
Robert Adam, who owns two of the houses on the HHT itinerary, noted some of those special features during a recent preview tour.
Formerly known as the Shaker Infirmary, the old building has windows with "some of the earliest sash profiles in all the Shaker houses I've seen," he said.
A preservationist and teacher who has made a career restoring antique buildings, Adam is well versed in Shaker history and the uniquely functional design of the structures in which members of the once thriving, now defunct religious sect -- famed for its celibate,communal lifestyle -- lived and worked.
Several years ago, Adam had "the old Shaker infirmary" moved to his property, saving it from the wrecking ball.
Asked about the vivid, pumpkin-yellow paint he'd chosen for the exterior of the main house and its venerable add-on, Adam said it fits. "Each Shaker village had its own version of yellow," he said.
Inside, the layout of his home (not on the tour) is open. The style is decidedly Shaker-esque.
Seated at his dining table, Adam set the stage for the tour.
An aunt of Benton MacKaye, one of the founding fathers of the Appalachian Trail, lived in the house originally, Adam said, veering off into a litany of its connections and conversions over the years. A Harvard grad from a theatrical family who became, among other things, a forester and planner, MacKaye summered in Shirley during his college years and later retired to his adopted hometown.
Freshly painted white outside and full of period perks within its cozy rooms, the MacKaye cottage would be the second stop on this morning. The first was "the old Shaker infirmary" next door.
The small, wood-framed building, circa 1800, was typical of Shaker "shop buildings" of its time, according to a biopic that Adam and Shirley Historical Society Curator Meredith Marcincewicz composed. But it is unique because of its gambrel roof, a style that "for some reason" the Shakers abandoned in favor of pitched roofs in the later 19th century.
The building has been moved several times and was first used as the office for The South Family of Shakers in Lancaster, just over the Shirley town line. Next, it was moved to the Church Family, about a half-mile north in an area now within the state prison grounds,where several Shaker buildings still stand. There, the old building was used as a "sick house," and later became known as the "infirmary."
In 1906, the building was moved to a site a couple of miles away, next to the Hazen or "Brick" Tavern on the Union Turnpike. The Shakers bought the tavern for "people from the world" to stay when visiting their village. When they sold the tavern, the "infirmary" became a caretaker's cottage.
Despite changes such as wainscoting from the 1830's in the workroom and absent its original center chimney, its Shaker heritage has been preserved.
The third stop is the Whitney House on the Common, now the home of Ron and Alex Banay, recently retired after many years teaching at the Middlesex School in Concord.
The house was in rough shape when they bought it, Alex said; its rehab was a long labor of love. The results are stunning, a perfect marriage of 18th and 19th century nuances and 21st century conveniences.
A butler's pantry connects the formal dining room to the homey country kitchen, with a commodious center island and old-fashioned features intact, such as the fireplace with beehive ovens.
There are fireplaces throughout this old house, which boasts refinished, wide pine floors, comfy parlors, a spacious, high-ceilinged front entry hall and a grand staircase.
Built around 1797, the son of Shirley's first minister once occupied this house. He also owned a store across the street.
The white, pillared, Georgian/Federal was "the premier house" in town, Adam said. As the owner of a lot of valuable real estate in town, Phinehas Whitney was "the squire," he said.
A big, elegant house like this was a statement about its owner's stature, Adam continued. Its style is "conservative" but it had "all the latest features," too. Nothing too ostentatious, though. Window embrasures, for example, were "in keeping with their surroundings."
For tour information, please contact Susan Baxter or Meredith Marcincewicz at the Shirley Historical Society.